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BOOK LOVE: Ferney by James Long

When Mike and Gally Martin move to a cottage in Somerset, it’s to make a new start. But the relationship comes under strain when Gally forms an increasingly close attachment to an old countryman, Ferney, who seems to know everything about her. What is it that draws them together? Reluctantly at first, then with more urgency as he feels time slipping away, Ferney compels Gally to understand their connection – and to face an inexplicable truth about their shared past.

It is great to see Ferney being re-released in the UK. HarperCollins published this book not long before I began working there back in 2000, and I know the publisher felt that it should have had more attention than it got. I read it over ten years ago, and the ending is still particularly vivid. The love story is absolutely original – a forerunner to The Time Traveller’s Wife – with a beautiful English countryside setting. I won’t give any more away, but if you can find it, read it!

NB: There’s also a sequel, called The Lives She Left Behind, which I’ll be looking out for. Check out details for both books, and Sarah Broadhurst’s review, on the lovereading website.

 

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BOOK LOVE: The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns

 “If ever there was a tale for a moonless night, a high wind and a creaking floor, this is it … I don’t expect to read a more frightening novel this year.” STEPHEN KING

For decades, the faded, rural upstate New York village of Aurelius has lain dormant – until it is stirred to life when, one by one, three young girls vanish…

Nightmares are turned into horrifying reality when their corpses are found, brutally murdered, each missing their left hand…

As the search for a madman gets underway, suspicion shrouds the quiet streets of Aurelius when its residents soon realize that monster lives amongst them…

I don’t read much in the way of gory crime at the moment, but in the days when I did I thought this book was one of the best. The small town claustrophobia is brilliantly done, the narrator is fascinating, and the whole thing gave me the creeps all the way through. It’s been some years since I read it and I can still remember the chilling last few lines. Don’t read it on your own at night!

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BOOK LOVE: Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Nothing can break the bond between sisters …When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister’s life – and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. The police, Beatrice’s fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

I was on my sickbed when I read this book, and it completely distracted me from the fact that the rest of the family had gone whale watching without me! This Not only does this book have an absorbing mystery, with fascinating character dynamics, but it’s also got one of those rare finishes – a brilliant twist.

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BOOK LOVE: Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey

Late on a hot summer night in the tail end of 1965, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of thirteen, is startled by an urgent knock on the window of his sleep-out. His visitor is Jasper Jones, an outcast in the regional mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie eagerly steals into the night by his side, terribly afraid but desperate to impress.

Jasper takes him through town and to his secret glade in the bush, and it’s here that Charlie bears witness to Jasper’s horrible discovery. With his secret like a brick in his belly, Charlie is pushed and pulled by a town closing in on itself in fear and suspicion as he locks horns with his tempestuous mother; falls nervously in love and battles to keep a lid on his zealous best friend, Jeffrey Lu. 
And in vainly attempting to restore the parts that have been shaken loose, Charlie learns to discern the truth from the myth, and why white lies creep like a curse. In the simmering summer where everything changes, Charlie learns why the truth of things is so hard to know, and even harder to hold in his heart.

I read Jasper Jones last year, and it instantly became one of my all-time favourite books. It has everything. The central dilemma is brilliant and the characters spring immediately to life – Jeffrey Lu and his family’s stoic endurance of terrible (superbly understated) prejudice have remained incredibly vivid to me twelve months down the line. Furthermore, the dialogue and description are so incisive that I want to take one page at a time and try to break down exactly how Silvey does it. His writing runs like water – racing and eddying and bubbling and dancing, while Silvey masterfully manipulates its flow and charts its course. If you haven’t read Jasper Jones, and you only have time to read one book for the rest of the year, I strongly suggest that you make it this one.

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An evening with Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer

It’s safe to say I am a HUGE Jodi Picoult fan. Her writing style appears effortless, but that is the trick of a master: to move a plot at entertaining speed while still capturing those compelling intricacies found in small moments. What’s more, her subject choices are always gritty and compelling, and her characters complex and real. So it was a real thrill to be in the audience last night when Jodi and her daughter Samantha visited Perth to talk about their new book.

Between the Lines was conceived by Samantha, who had the idea of a fairytale character with a life beyond the book’s pages, and a lonesome teenage girl who wishes this prince was real. Both Jodi and Samantha read excerpts from the book, and talked about what a great time they had writing it together – spending eight hours a day working on it line by line, speaking the story out loud to one another, and aiming for a certain number of pages a session.

In the Q&A afterwards, Jodi named Second Glance as the favourite of her books (because she had a great time researching it, and felt she nailed its complexity). Samantha spoke of her disconcertion as she watched readers devour their book in a few days, after she and Jodi had spent three years working on it. (I remember a similar feeling when Come Back to Me came out – I couldn’t believe people could move on so fast when I’d been absorbed in the story for such a long time!) And Jodi gave her verdict on writer’s block as a writer having too much time on their hands. Just write, she urged. You can edit a bad page but you can’t edit a blank page.

I love this photo! It looks like I just ran in with a cheesy grin while Jodi and Samantha were having their picture taken.

Afterwards it was well worth waiting in the very long line to get my battered old copy of My Sister’s Keeper signed by Jodi, and my brand-new copy of Between the Lines signed by Samantha. Most of all, it was a real buzz to be able to say to Jodi directly, in the few brief moments I was in front of her, that she has been a true inspiration to me. Reading a Picoult book always re-energises me, and makes me aim higher in my own work.

NB: The first book I read by Jodi Picoult was, like many others, My Sister’s Keeper. It was fascinating to find out what she thought of the film, particularly the different ending. I found a blog link where Jodi answers a similar question, and you can read it here: http://filmvsbook.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/jodi-picoult-on-my-sisters-keeper.html

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BOOK LOVE: The Hunger Games trilogy

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed.

This mega-selling trilogy is down as YA fiction (as is Lauren Oliver’s Delirium, another of my Book Loves), but I definitely want to read more if this is where YA is at these days. I refrained from this series for a while as I thought the premise sounded pretty macabre. And it is, but after a few recommendations from trusted reader friends, I shook off my reservations and I’m glad I did. From the first chapter, I was completely absorbed in Katniss Everdeen’s journey. I’ve obviously got a thing for dystopian fiction – I love their vivid re-imagined worlds, the fast-paced action, and the exploration of control and subversion. I’m obviously not alone. Why do these stories appeal to so many people, and teenagers in particular? Perhaps it is because there is obvious and terrible injustice in the real world as to how powerful people control and manipulate others, and in these books there is an opportunity of redress by an everyday, ordinary person. The story of Katniss Everdeen might belong to a fantastical world, but I found one of its strongest themes was that there is hope to be found even in the most powerless, grotesque and overwhelming situations.

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BOOK LOVE: Am I Black Enough for You? by Anita Heiss

In Am I Black Enough for You, Anita Heiss directly tackles the belittling idea that there is only one identity to be found within a specific cultural or ethnic background. With her trademark humour and razor-sharp insight, Anita gracefully explores her identity as an Aboriginal woman, and the intersecting lines of sameness and difference to the people around her. Through her own story, Anita raises numerous questions great and small as to how we all respond to this idea of ‘otherness’, and makes a succession of hard-hitting, challenging points about the narrow-minded assumptions still embedded in western society, which affect everything from the way that history is taught in schools to assuming Anita has a natural affinity for camping (and I think it’s safe to say she doesn’t!).

Anita also talks about the well-known court case where she and eight other applicants took on Andrew Bolt, who had written an article in the Herald Sun suggesting these women had used their Aboriginality to gain professional advantage. The case was won, but that was not the end of it for Anita. When Am I Black Enough for You? came out in April, I was on lockdown trying to finish my novel, but I didn’t miss what happened next. Anita was attacked on various online sites, with racist and derogatory comments, some of which I had the misfortune to read. What struck me most was the suggestion that with this victory, Anita had somehow denied the notion of free speech, when nothing could be further from the truth. In the promotion of free speech as a universal ideal, there is now, ironically, a platform for slander and misrepresentation on a staggering scale. I’m so glad that Anita and her fellow applicants didn’t allow these assertions to go unchallenged, and that they stood up for who they are and everything they have achieved. The Australian book industry wouldn’t be the same without Anita doing all she can to close gaps of communication and understanding, and telling stories to make us think and make us smile.

Anita writes across a number of genres. To find out more visit http://www.anitaheiss.com/. You can also watch Anita on YouTube talking about Am I Black Enough for you.

 

Another great review for Beneath the Shadows

There’s nothing like reading a wonderful review that really encapsulates your book. So I loved this piece by Oline Cogdill in the Sun-Suntinel, the paper for South Florida in the US: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/entertainment/stage/fl-book-beneath-the-shadows-07112-20120627,0,5785262.story

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Shallow Breath

NEW AUSTRALIAN EDITION

COMING JULY 2017

How far would you go to save someone you love?

Two years ago, Desi Priest made a horrific mistake and destroyed her family.

Now, she is coming home to make amends: to her daughter Maya, who’s nurturing her own dangerous plan; to her brother Jackson, who blames himself; and to her close friend Pete, who has spent years shielding her from a devastating truth.

But as Desi returns to her beloved house by the ocean, there is a stranger waiting for her. Someone who needs her help. Someone whose arrival will reveal a chain of secrets hidden for over twenty years.

And one by one the family will be forced to confront the possibility that they have somehow got things terribly, tragically wrong …

Set across five continents, Shallow Breath is a compelling novel of dashed dreams and second chances. But most of all it is a story about love, and what it really means to be free.

‘Gripping, touching, and close to my heart. I was hooked from start to finish.’

Favel Parrett

Australian ISBN: 978-1925533248

E-book ISBN: 978-1925533255

Available in Australia and New Zealand from this website, and in all good bookstores, including Booktopia, Dymocks and independent retailers.

Shallow Breath by Sara Foster

INTERNATIONAL READERS:

You can find the Kindle international edition of Shallow Breath on all Amazon stores outside Australia (ASIN: BOOCEXVEEW)

If you are overseas and you would like to purchase a print edition, please send a message of enquiry using the Contact form.

Book Group Questions

1. The shoutline of the book is ‘How far would you go to save someone you love?’. How did this resonate for you within the novel?

2. What does the pearl necklace symbolise?

3. Why do you think the author chose to put in one chapter towards the end of the book from Connor’s perspective, when most of the information is found elsewhere or could easily have been added?

4. Discuss Luke’s character and his role within the story.

5. Who was your favourite character? Which characters did you feel the most sympathetic towards, and why?

6. How did you feel about the decisions the characters made towards the end of the book? Are their actions justified? Is it ever okay to do something wrong if it makes something right?

7. ‘The thing that makes you is the thing that breaks you.’ What do you think of Pete’s comment, and how does it apply to the story?

8. Did you like the introduction of a new ‘voice’ in each part? Why do you think the author did this?

9. At the beginning of each part there is a short, italicised section from an unidentified perspective. How do you think these short pieces contribute to the novel? What effect would it have on the story if they were removed?

10. What did you think of the ending? What feelings does this book leave you with?

Reviews

‘Shallow Breath invites breathless anticipation, building towards a shocking climax. It is a really satisfying read.’ www.aussiereviews.com

‘…the steady unveiling of all that lies below the surface is suspenseful, complicated and deeply mired in oceanic metaphors … Foster is a gifted writer who has much to teach us in amongst this intriguing family saga.’ This Charming Mum blog, March 2013

‘a thrilling novel about love and freedom’ Green Lifestyle magazine, Feb/March 2013

‘compelling, emotional and graphic’ 5/5 stars Book Muster Down Under, February 2013

‘Shallow Breath is a beautifully written novel that quite easily draws you in to this somewhat broken family and the fragile relationships that are struggling to knit themselves back together … It further cements Sara Foster as a writer with a real talent for suspense and pacing and the ability to flesh out her novels with characters that are so real you can imagine yourself living next door to them.’ 1Girl2ManyBooks, February 2013

‘… with Western Australian author Sara Foster’s skilled pen, there is a vitality and urgency to the pace of Shallow Breath than catapults the reader right into the heart of the action.’ Australian Women’s Weekly, January 2013

‘set quite uniquely against a fascinating and intelligent backdrop of Australian wildlife and it’s struggle for survival in the modern world’ Australian Women’s Weekly, January 2013

‘…beautifully researched and written with enormous passion … the perfect holiday companion for those wanting to lose themselves in a good story.’ Writing WA review in the West Australian, January 2013

‘The narrative burden shifts between characters, all of whom have winning strengths and credible frailties, and the action emanates from these qualities with effortless suspense and dramatic power…’ Sydney Morning Herald PICK OF THE WEEK, December 2012

‘well-crafted psychological suspense’ Saturday Age PICK OF THE WEEK, December 2012

‘Shallow Breath is a fast-paced read which interweaves drama, intrigue, loss and the fate animals can face at the hands of humans. The author’s clever use of psychological suspense played out in this book reeled me in and delivered the animal conservation message with a powerful punch.’ Port Macquarie News, January 2013

‘SHALLOW BREATH is a modern Australian saga, written by an author who knows how to breathe life into characters. The story reaches through the pages pulling you into its watery depths and when it is over the characters will stay with you as if you’ve connected deeply with new friends.’ An Adventure in Reading, December 2012

‘An engaging novel that is sure to haunt you, this is an absorbing read. Dive into Shallow Breath – you won’t regret it.’ Book’d Out, December 2012

‘…an absorbing novel about the loneliness of secrets and how love yearns to be free of them.’ Canberra Times, December 2012

‘a double whammy of suspense coupled with some nicely nuanced characters…’ Geelong Advertiser, December 2012

‘Foster has such a knack for intrigue and is so engaging with her storytelling…,and this, her third novel – set in her adopted WA – is sharper and more mysterious than ever.’ The West Australian, December 2012

‘another taut, suspenseful read bursting with family secrets and hope…Shallow Breath is one of those books you want to dive into and not come back out of until it’s finished.’ Monique Mulligan, Write Note Reviews

‘a love letter to the ocean’, Bookseller and Publisher, October 2012

‘Gripping, touching and close to my heart. I was hooked from start to finish.’ Favel Parrett

For author interviews and general media, click here